World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

Special World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria Faisal Mekdad addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo)
Short Url
Updated 26 September 2022

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
  • Faisal Mekdad issues strongly worded attack on Western countries over ‘wars of occupation’
  • Attempts to ‘break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world’ have failed

LONDON: The Syrian regime has criticized Western-led interventions in the Middle East, telling the UN General Assembly on Monday that the world is at a “critical, dangerous point.”

Following a strongly worded attack on Western countries, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad issued an appeal to “meet the challenges of food insecurity, terrorism and climate change together.”

He described Syria’s decade-long conflict as having originated from “attempts by some countries to impose hegemony on others,” condemning decisions to “put a stranglehold on economies”, “flout international law” and wage “wars of occupation.”

The conflict is “ultimately an attempt by the West to maintain control over the world,” he added, warning that the attempt to “break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world” had failed.

Mekdad said Western countries have intervened in the Middle East under the “excuse of spreading democracy and human rights,” adding that terrorist groups labeled “moderates” were “used as tools.”

He claimed that by a deliberate undermining of Syria’s access to medication, food, fuel and basic goods, the country’s people have been punished by the West.

He called for the creation of a multipolar world order, overseen by the UN, to fulfil the organization’s charter and support its purpose.

Mekdad said Israel’s practices had raised tensions and caused instability in the Middle East. He alleged that during the conflict in Syria, Israel had covertly supported terror groups fighting in the country, including Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, in what he described as an “act of military aggression.”

Israel’s activities in the Golan Heights — which it captured from Syria in 1967 and illegally annexed in 1981 — are also cause for concern, he added, warning that Damascus will seek to “hold it accountable for these crimes.”

Syria continues to support Palestine becoming a full-fledged UN member, Mekdad said.

He highlighted some of the steps that the regime is making toward ending the conflict in Syria, arguing that it had consistently called for “national and local reconciliation in order to promote national unity.”

In that regard, Mekdad said the regime had signed 21 amnesty orders, “enabling Syrians to return to normal lives” and ending fighting around the country.

But he warned that as a result of Western “economic terrorism,” Syria has lost an estimated $107 billion in oil and gas revenues since 2011, leading to further economic issues.

Syria will continue to seek compensation for the lost revenues, Mekdad said, adding that the regime is “doing everything possible” to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Turning to international issues, he said Syria supports the “right of Russia to secure its national territory,” adding: “Russia is defending not only itself, but justice and the right of humanity to reject unipolar hegemony.”

He also spoke of Syria’s support for China, arguing that Beijing has the right to protect its national sovereignty against “Western attempts” to influence events in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.


Three teens among 15 Iranians facing death penalty: judiciary

Three teens among 15 Iranians facing death penalty: judiciary
Updated 36 sec ago

Three teens among 15 Iranians facing death penalty: judiciary

Three teens among 15 Iranians facing death penalty: judiciary
TEHRAN: Three Iranian teenagers are among 15 people who could face the death penalty over the killing of a pro-government paramilitary force member, the judiciary said Wednesday.
Iran has been rocked by street violence since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
A group of 15 people was charged with “corruption on earth” over the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij paramilitary force, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported.
Prosecutors allege Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed on November 3 in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester.
Initially, on November 12, Mizan Online announced charges for 11 people over Ajamian’s killing, including a woman.
But on Wednesday, as the trial opened, it said 15 defendants in the case had been charged with “corruption on earth” — a sharia-related charge that is a capital crime in the Islamic republic.
“Three of the accused are aged 17” and their cases would be dealt with by a juvenile court, the website added.
An Iranian general said on Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest, including dozens of security force members, and thousands have been arrested, among them around 40 foreigners.
More than 2,000 people have been charged with offenses, according to the authorities.
At least six people have so far been sentenced to death, their fates now depending on the supreme court which rules on appeals.

Rights group: 47 children among at least 378 killed in Iran protest crackdown

Rights group: 47 children among at least 378 killed in Iran protest crackdown
Updated 36 sec ago

Rights group: 47 children among at least 378 killed in Iran protest crackdown

Rights group: 47 children among at least 378 killed in Iran protest crackdown
  • The Islamic republic has been gripped by protests that erupted over Amini’s death on September 16
PARIS: Iranian security forces have killed at least 378 people — including 47 children — in a crackdown on protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, a rights group said in an updated toll Saturday.
The Islamic republic has been gripped by protests that erupted over Amini’s death on September 16, three days after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.
The protests were fanned by fury over the dress rules for women, but have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 revolution.
“At least 378 protesters, including 47 children, have been killed by the oppressive forces since September 16,” Iran Human Rights director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said.
The figure represents an increase of 36 since the Norway-based group issued its previous toll on Wednesday.
It includes at least 123 people killed in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, on Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan, 40 in both Kurdistan and Tehran provinces and 39 in West Azerbaijan province.
Iran Human Rights warned that the regime had been mounting a “campaign of spreading lies” ahead of a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council next week.
“They have two goals by attributing the killing of the protesters to terrorist groups like Daesh,” Amiry-Moghaddam said, referring to the Daesh group.
“They want to use it as an excuse for more widespread use of live ammunition,” he said.
“And they also want to influence countries in the UN Human Rights Council who will gather on November 24 in a special session considering establishing an independent investigation and accountability mechanism” over the crackdown in Iran, he added.

UAE president marks national day with pardon for hundreds of inmates

UAE president marks national day with pardon for hundreds of inmates
Updated 30 November 2022

UAE president marks national day with pardon for hundreds of inmates

UAE president marks national day with pardon for hundreds of inmates
  • The announcement was made ahead of the 51st National Day

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered the release of 1,530 prisoners, ahead of UAE's 51st National Day, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The pardoned prisoners had been sentenced to jail terms for a variety of offenses.

Sheikh Mohamed also pledged to settle the financial obligations of the released prisoners.

“The President’s pardon gives the released prisoners an opportunity to rethink their future and positively contribute to the service of their families and communities in order to lead successful social and professional lives,” the statement added.


Egyptians call on British Museum to return Rosetta Stone

Egyptians call on British Museum to return Rosetta Stone
Updated 30 November 2022

Egyptians call on British Museum to return Rosetta Stone

Egyptians call on British Museum to return Rosetta Stone

CAIRO: The debate over who owns ancient artifacts has been an increasing challenge to museums across Europe and America, and the spotlight has fallen on the most visited piece in the British Museum: The Rosetta Stone.
The inscriptions on the black granite slab became the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics after it was taken from Egypt by forces of the British empire in 1801.
Now, as Britain’s largest museum marks the 200-year anniversary of the decipherment of hieroglyphics, thousands of Egyptians are demanding the stone’s return.
‘’The British Museum’s holding of the stone is a symbol of Western cultural violence against Egypt,” said Monica Hanna, dean at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, and organizer of one of two petitions calling for the stone’s return.
The acquisition of the Rosetta Stone was tied up in the imperial battles between Britain and France. After Napoleon Bonaparte’s military occupation of Egypt, French scientists uncovered the stone in 1799 in the northern town of Rashid, known by the French as Rosetta. When British forces defeated the French in Egypt, the stone and over a dozen other antiquities were handed over to the British under the terms of an 1801 surrender deal between the generals of the two sides.
It has remained in the British Museum since.
Hanna’s petition, with 4,200 signatures, says the stone was seized illegally and constitutes a “spoil of war.” The claim is echoed in a near identical petition by Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister for antiquities affairs, which has more than 100,000 signatures. Hawass argues that Egypt had no say in the 1801 agreement.
The British Museum refutes this. In a statement, the Museum said the 1801 treaty includes the signature of a representative of Egypt. It refers to an Ottoman admiral who fought alongside the British against the French. The Ottoman sultan in Istanbul was nominally the ruler of Egypt at the time of Napoleon’s invasion.
The Museum also said Egypt’s government has not submitted a request for its return. It added that there are 28 known copies of the same engraved decree and 21 of them remain in Egypt.
The contention over the original stone copy stems from its unrivaled significance to Egyptology. Carved in the 2nd century B.C., the slab contains three translations of a decree relating to a settlement between the then-ruling Ptolemies and a sect of Egyptian priests. The first inscription is in classic hieroglyphics, the next is in a simplified hieroglyphic script known as Demotic, and the third is in Ancient Greek.
Through knowledge of the latter, academics were able to decipher the hieroglyphic symbols, with French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion eventually cracking the language in 1822.
‘‘Scholars from the previous 18th century had been longing to find a bilingual text written in a known language,’’ said Ilona Regulski, the head of Egyptian Written Culture at the British Museum. Regulski is the lead curator of the museum’s winter exhibition, “Hieroglyphs Unlocking Ancient Egypt,” celebrating the 200th anniversary of Champollion’s breakthrough.
The stone is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum. A large percentage were obtained during Britain’s colonial rule over the region from 1883 to 1953.
It has grown increasingly common for museums and collectors to return artifacts to their country of origin, with new instances reported nearly monthly. Often, it’s the result of a court ruling, while some cases are voluntary, symbolizing an act of atonement for historical wrongs.
New York’s Metropolitan Museum returned 16 antiquities to Egypt in September after a US investigation concluded they had been illegally trafficked. On Monday, London’s Horniman Museum signed over 72 objects, including 12 Benin Bronzes, to Nigeria following a request from its government.
Nicholas Donnell, a Boston-based attorney specializing in cases concerning art and artifacts, said no common international legal framework exists for such disputes. Unless there is clear evidence an artifact was acquired illegally, repatriation is largely at the discretion of the museum.
‘‘Given the treaty and the timeframe, the Rosetta Stone is a hard legal battle to win,’’ said Donnell.
The British Museum has acknowledged that several repatriation requests have been made to it from various countries for artifacts, but it did not provide The Associated Press with any details on their status or number. It also did not confirm whether it has ever repatriated an artifact from its collection.
For Nigel Hetherington, an archaeologist and CEO of the online academic forum Past Preserves, the museum’s lack of transparency suggests other motives.
‘‘It’s about money, maintaining relevance and a fear that in returning certain items people will stop coming,’’ he said.
Western museums have long pointed to superior facilities and larger crowd draws to justify their holding of world treasures. Amid turmoil following the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Egypt saw an uptick in artifact smuggling, which cost the country an estimated $3 billion between 2011 and 2013, according to the US-based Antiquities Coalition. In 2015, it was discovered that cleaners at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum had damaged the burial mask of Pharaoh Tutankhamun by attempting to re-attach the beard with super glue.
But President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government has since invested heavily in its antiquities. Egypt has successfully reclaimed thousands of internationally smuggled artifacts and plans to open a newly built, state-of-the-art museum where tens of thousands of objects can be housed. The Grand Egyptian Museum has been under construction for well over a decade and there have been repeated delays to its opening.
Egypt’s plethora of ancient monuments, from the pyramids of Giza to the towering statues of Abu Simbel at the Sudanese border, are the magnet for a tourism industry that drew in $13 billion in 2021.
For Hanna, Egyptians’ right to access their own history should remain the priority. “How many Egyptians can travel to London or New York?” she said.
Egyptian authorities did not respond to a request for comment regarding Egypt’s policy toward the Rosetta Stone or other Egyptian artifacts displayed abroad. Hawass and Hanna said they are not pinning hopes on the government to secure its return.
‘‘The Rosetta Stone is the icon of Egyptian identity,’’ said Hawass. ‘‘I will use the media and the intellectuals to tell the (British) museum they have no right.’’


UAE’s moon rover launch delayed

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed
Updated 30 November 2022

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed
  • Rashid Rover is now scheduled to launch at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1

DUBAI: The launch of the UAE’s moon rover has been delayed by one day for “additional pre-flight checks”, it was announced on Wednesday.

Rashid Rover, the Arab world’s first lunar mission, is now scheduled to launch at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, SpaceX said in a statement.

 

 

The UAE’s lunar mission is the product of a partnership with SpaceX and Japan-based ispace inc., which created the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

The Emirati-made Rashid rover, weighing 10 kilograms and stored inside the Japanese lander, is due to land around April 2023 on the visible side of the Moon, in the Atlas crater after a five-month journey.

Once launched, the integrated spacecraft will take a low-energy route to the moon rather than a direct approach, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center earlier said.

If the lunar mission succeeds, the UAE will be the fourth country to land on the moon. The mission will also see the first spacecraft funded and built by a private Japanese firm to land on the moon.